Twenty-two years ago, I tasted the Karl Strauss amber lager for the first time while sitting at the brewery. It was the first American example of the great German style I had ever tried, and it was where a good friend and I wondered: Can we do this in North Carolina?
We launched Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill, NC, in the winter of 1995. Like several other breweries this year, Carolina Brewery will celebrate its 20th anniversary. During these past two decades, America’s brewers have successfully reintroduced what beer can be, and our brewing landscape looks more like 1814 or 1914 than 1984. My story is similar yet different to many of the 3,200 and counting American breweries that are—regionally and locally—defining our nation’s big redo on the history of brewing.
In 1994, I dialed a phone number found in the classifieds of the local weekly. The ad said something about brewing and America’s leading beer magazine.
I’m not sure my partner and I had Holiday Inn Express-level intelligence yet. But we had done enough research to know that not much of a beer community existed in the Southeast, let alone Chapel Hill. We were pumped up to make and sell good beer, and I was sure the local market would be just as excited as I was that a brewery was going to open nearby. It didn’t work out that way.
The voice on the other end was abrupt, terse, gruff, very curious, and asked about 15 questions in under four seconds. “You are going to do what? Why do you think you can start a brewery here? Do you have any brewing experience? What gives you the privilege to open a brewery?”
I remember looking into the phone like Chevy Chase in “Fletch.” Startled, confused and now embarrassed, I disconnected the call. I had officially met and hung up on Daniel Bradford, even though I didn’t get his name at the time. Once he heard “starting brewery … here in Chapel Hill,” every possible path to the conversation ended. But that phrase “what gives you the privilege” stuck with me. The delivery carried some serious gravitas. The words rang true.
America’s brewers participating in this third substantial and wild growth phase have Daniel to thank as the voice of equity and support for what has been a couple of generations. In our world, Daniel has been a central figure helping America’s breweries hit the reset button on the story of American brewing and moving it forward.
Daniel’s résumé advocating for beer through the years is deep, rich, unique and loud. He has led trade associations, published books and defined and produced the first years of the Great American Beer Festival; he has led beer and cheese tastings longer than the combined age of most of today’s hop varietals; and most importantly, he has published the leading brewing magazines.
He began writing for All About Beer Magazine at a time when contract brewing was more of a story than craft brewing (the 1980s), and a few years ago asked me if I would help him think through the next few years of his journey.
Daniel allowed me to build a team to lead and expand the company’s work further, and last year he sold All About Beer to me. As a magazine—and through our World Beer Festivals and other programs—we are humbled at the privilege of bringing you the expanding beer story and creating unique ways to experience trends in this great corner of the world.
It is our privilege to continue the work Daniel led for so long, and be the leading voice for you, beer lovers.This column appears in the March 2015 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here to subscribe.